2017 was an exciting year for new restaurants, boasting cultural and geographic diversity that bodes well for our city’s culinary future. Yes, it’s nice when great new fine-dining restaurants open in downtown Dallas, but neighborhoods all around the area need good places to eat, so it’s heartening that some of our favorite new places are in unlikely spots such as downtown Irving, the Cedars, northern Carrollton and West Dallas. It’s even cooler that they include not just upscale tacos and scrumptious pizzas but Thai street snacks and Iraqi kebabs, too.
Get ready to dive into our list of the best new Dallas-area restaurants of 2017 — it's a list so deep, we had to include 11.
11. Sandwich Hag. This colorful Cedars grab-and-go spot is a trendy-looking but incredibly thoughtful homage to the banh mi. Chef-owner Reyna Duong keeps the sandwich menu tight with Vietnamese pork, lemongrass pork, ginger tofu and ginger chicken banh mis, and she holds tight to her vision by not allowing omissions or substitutions. Duong elevates what is often a $2 to $3 sandwich by using high-quality ingredients, from the toasted French baguette from a local Vietnamese bakery to the housemade garlic aioli and pickled veggies. Outrageously flavorful Vietnamese pork sausage makes for a sandwich so large, you'd be hard-pressed to finish it all in one sitting (yet you likely will). There are salads and curries, too, but we can't help but come back time and again for that pork sausage banh mi with Duong's famous coconut Vietnamese iced coffee, a caffeine-packed, dark-roasted Cafe Du Monde coffee blended with rich coconut milk. Thank the coffee gods she started opening at 9 a.m. so we could get a fix on days when a normal cup of coffee just won't do.
10. La Sultana Antojitos. Some of the best breakfasts in Oak Cliff can be found at this small restaurant just off Westmoreland Road. At La Sultana, which is open for breakfast and lunch, there are excellent breakfast tacos on handmade corn tortillas before 11 a.m. — go for the mashed potato taco with chorizo whipped in or the outstanding bistec — and excellent chilaquiles, too. Breakfasts are two for the price of one on Mondays, but in our experience, La Sultana is just about the best new Sunday brunch spot in Oak Cliff — informal and unpretentious yet packed with homemade flavor. (Sorry, Bishop Arts.)
9. Lima Taverna. Just outside Collin Creek Mall is Plano’s Peruvian embassy, Lima Taverna, where you can feel the heart of the owners. Quechua-language words are used as decoration, and the hospitable Eliseo Figueroa makes certain that non-Peruvian customers feel at home with the menu. What to order? Well, there’s pescado a lo macho, a bounteous fish stew with tender calamari, mussels and shrimp, or one of the city’s best chargrilled pork chops. Ask if street-style grilled skewers of beef heart are available, too, or opt for one of the varieties of bracingly acidic ceviche.
8. Junction Craft Kitchen. It’s been a banner year for Junction, which made this list last year, when it was known as Kitchen LTO. The former LTO changed things up this year, ending its “permanent pop-up” concept, bringing on Joshua Harmon as both chef and part-owner, changing its name and introducing a late-night bao cart that serves Deep Ellum's best post-bar snack food. On Junction's menu, there’s a gloriously gluttonous double cheeseburger with housemade kimchi mayo and housemade American cheese, plus a series of far more experimental, out-of-the-box offerings such as a smoky, Asian-influenced potato salad with crumbled Funyuns. Junction’s kitchen isn’t big enough for a walk-in freezer, which means everything that can’t be served fresh must be preserved. Sometimes the experiments get a little too crazy, but that’s part of the learning process at one of the most inventive restaurants in Dallas.
7. Taquero. Speaking of inventive, how many outdoor-seating taco windows serve Brussels sprouts with a peppery salsa? Or a creamy San Luis Potosí-style ceviche topped with a fan of avocado slices? Taquero, from chef Fino Rodriguez, brings something new to Singleton Avenue: an ever-experimenting twist on the classic South Dallas taco spot. The standard tacos are pretty great, too, as are a variety of seafood-based specialty items. Taquero now accepts credit cards, which makes visiting even easier. Don't let the weather stop you; this taqueria is worth it.
6. Town Hearth. The year’s new see-and-be-seen spot is Town Hearth, a palace of Dallas excess that sports vintage motorcycles and submarines in its decorative scheme. There’s probably no better 2017 restaurant opening to save for a special occasion, like an especially rambunctious birthday party. It's packed to the gills every night until after 10 p.m., and reservations are basically mandatory. Steaks are the order of the day, especially giant, shareable steaks with names like The Battle Axe, but save a spot on the table for the “tots du jour,” an over-the-top luxury take on tater tots that might feature beef stew one night and huge lumps of crab or lobster the next. The cocktail list is formidable, too, and it might help your mood when the bill arrives.
5. Too Thai Street Eats. Too Thai is a first for the Dallas area, something almost no other restaurant on this list can claim. This Carrollton restaurant focuses on Thai market and street foods, branching out from drunken noodles and spring rolls to paint a fuller picture of the culinary diversity of the streets of Bangkok. Bring a group and share a hot pot soup brimming with seafood, try an ultra-spicy papaya salad with fermented fish sauce and lime wedges, or try a mussel-studded omelet so bubbly-crisp it will blow your mind. There are smells, textures and tastes here like nothing else in the region. And in case that sounds scary, there are some pretty legit chicken wings, too.
4. Sassetta. Sassetta is an ideal low-key date night. (We know because we’ve used it for exactly that purpose.) Bring your date through the comically huge front door, then settle in for some affordable Italian wines by the glass, a couple of bowls of fresh-made pasta and a slice of lemon cake. Sassetta’s pizzas are mighty good, maybe some of the city’s best, because the crust is excellent and they don’t try to do too much on one pie. (Only two, last we checked, have red sauce.) The pasta bowls have strong Mediterranean bents, and a judicious squeeze of lemon brightens most of them. You could overeat here, but Sassetta makes it easy to be satisfied by some light, relatively sin-free bites. In other words, it’s just what we needed after a few too many nights at Town Hearth.
3. Chai Khanah. Richardson has a new best Iraqi restaurant, and all of Dallas needs to take notice. Yes, we’re ranking Chai Khanah in our top three new openings of 2017, and we’re not doing so to be provocative. It is that good. The kashkash kebab, crisply charred on the outside and fall-apart tender within, is that good; the musabaha, hummus with the chickpeas still whole, is that addicting; the lentil soup is that soul-comforting; the breakfast specials, like eggs scrambled with lamb and spices, are that satisfying. Best of all is Chai Khanah’s welcoming hospitality, which by itself might make regulars out of us. Every meal here is a feast, made with heart and zippy pickles.
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2. Sachet. Sachet feels like a restaurant Dallas has needed for a long time. It features veggie-based shareable mezze and just-right portions of fresh housemade pastas set to the bright flavors of the Mediterranean. (That green garlic nettle tortiglioni, with a small shower of mushrooms and herbs, is going in the Dallas Pasta Hall of Fame.) But also, remarkably, Sachet feels like it’s been here forever — the service is so deeply knowledgeable, the design so thoughtful, the kitchen so consistent. Its specialty gin and tonic list and adventurous but affordable wine program already feel woven into the fabric of the city’s drinkscape. Sachet is a neighborhood restaurant that’s refreshing, willing to celebrate vegetables and always on its game. We’re glad to have it.
1. Revolver Taco Lounge. How can a new restaurant open in Deep Ellum and make the other eateries in that neighborhood — in that neighborhood — feel so uncool? How can one business open and make all the other spots on the block feel like they’re missing an extra burst of energy? That’s Revolver Taco Lounge, home of frog-leg curry tacos, scallop and raspberry tacos, a cabrito taco the size of your face, and tacos with wagyu beef tongue or octopus. We could keep listing, but what makes Revolver mind-blowing is the backroom, Purepecha, where Regino Rojas, Hugo Galvan and their crew serve seven-course fine-dining tasting menus that rival any meal in Dallas in an intimate space with a private kitchen. Revolver is two restaurants in one. Separately, they’re excellent. Together, they’re revolutionary.
Beth Rankin contributed to this report.